Jamaica is one of those places that has set itself apart as a destination. As a beautiful Caribbean island and the epicenter of the reggae universe, it’s easy to see why. The island is very well connected to U.S. and overseas destinations and the hotels offer easy airport transfers. Most trips are offered as a package deal, making your vacation planning as easy as humanly possible. That’s cool if you don’t want to lift a finger on your trip. Jamaica offers a plethora of activities, from horseback riding on the beach to scaling waterfalls to visiting a glowing lagoon. There is a drawback to the island, however, which very nearly ruined my trip there. If you’re planning on traveling to Jamaica, plan on being constantly harassed by the locals with questions like: “Do you want to buy some weed?” “Do you need a cab?” “Do you want some braids?” and “Do you want to buy a t-shirt?”. Seriously, I even had one guy ask me if I was there to get my groove back. It’s really annoying, but you have to be firm and keep in mind the people asking are very poor and they’re just trying to make a living. Keep in mind that the rainy seasons, from May to June and September to November, are in fact rainy. Despite popular belief, drugs (including the ganga), are illegal for tourists in Jamaica. Use your own judgment.
English is the official language of Jamaica but Patios, or Creole, is widely spoken among the locals. Creole is a blend of English with various African languages that has developed in the region. No worries, you won’t have to attempt the native language yourself.
The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar. US currency, travelers checks and major credit cards are welcome everywhere and ATMs accepting Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and all of the other major cards are widely available. To find out about converting other types of currency to dollars, visit our currency converter.
Most accommodations in Jamaica are all-inclusive resorts, though the price range and amount of luxury varies widely. When I planned my trip to Jamaica several years ago, it was pretty difficult to find a hotel and airline ticket that wasn’t part of a package deal. These days, budget travel is definitely an option if you play our cards right. I found rates as low as $20 a night in Montego Bay, which is a steal.
Food and Drinks
If you’re staying at one of the many all-inclusive hotels, you can plan on eating most of your meals there. Most all-inclusives offer several dining options to give you a little variety. Appleton rum is local and awfully good, but the true star in the Jamaican beverage scene is definitely the Blue Mountain coffee. It is hands down the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in my life and a great gift to bring back for all of your coffee loving friends and family who didn’t get to visit the island.
>>more information on Best Restaurants in Jamaica
Holidays & Events
There are several holidays celebrated on the island, during which many private businesses are closed. Definitely something to keep in mind when you’re planning your trip, unless you plan to never leave your hotel. They are:
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Bob Marley Day (February 6)
Carnival Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter)
Labour Day (May 23)
Reggae Sumfest (July)
Emancipation Day (August 1)
Independence Day (August 6)
Heroes Day (third Monday in October)
Christmas Day (December 25)
Boxing Day (December 26)
Getting There & Around
Hoards of airlines offer flights to Montego Bay and Kingston to a lesser extent, with Air Jamaica leading the pack. Your hotel will likely offer a shuttle, which is the easiest way to work it if you’re only visiting one destination. The all-inclusives offer a myriad of “excursions,” or day trips, that will get you to most of the tourist sites. Alternately, you can take the local or tourist bus, otherwise known as JUTA. Car rentals are certainly a possibility and any one of the many friendly natives who offer you a cab ride can get you where you need to go.
Electricity in Jamaica runs 110 volts/50 cycles standard with two-pronged and flat prongs just like those used in the United States and Canada. That means you can take your hair dryer, but with all that humidity, I don’t know why you would go to the trouble.
Things to Do
Jamaica offers LOADS of activities for tourists throughout the island. You can tour a coffee farm, climb Ochos Rios falls, horseback ride on the beach, swim with the dolphins, visit the man himself Bob Marley’s birthplace, horse back riding on the beach, biking, wind surfing, fishing, hiking, golf, rafting and tubing in the many rivers, and of course diving and snorkeling.